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I'm wondering if Heat Metal could force a target to drop their shield.

The spell description says (emphasis mine):

If a creature is holding or wearing the object and takes the damage from it, the creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or drop the object if it can.

Since doffing a shield is an action, they cannot drop their shield on the caster's turn when they take the damage and fail their save.

So if the target fails their save, are they then required to use their action on their turn to drop their shield, or are they free to hold onto their shield?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Bit of a real-world interjection here, but the part of a shield you hold onto is usually a leather strap on the back of it, not metal. Also most shields were made of wood, sometimes but not always plated with metal on the outside. (Leather was also used.) So I wouldn't expect this to be very effective in either case - but that's real-world, might not be strictly within game-rules. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarrelHoffman Real world, both my (functional) shields have metal handles. Handles very much depend on the shield style, but for a buckler (which is what you’d use with a sword typically) a metal or wood handle would be typical. A classic “kite” shield is great for arrows but probably not what I’d choose for a dungeon dive… don’t get me started on where my players have gone carrying a greataxe and 10’ pole… nevertheless, if my shield got red hot, it’d burn me even if the handle was asbestos. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Oct 5 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanW Fully metal shields existed, sure, but they were not the norm. There's a bit of a bias in our perception since the metal ones are the ones most likely to still be intact today, partly because they're more durable, but also because they were more likely to be owned by the wealthy, and better preserved. The more common shields made from wood or leather that an ordinary soldier would use have had centuries to rot away, or to have been destroyed in battle back when they were in use. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarrelHoffman good point about the metal ones being better preserved; my kit is based on gear the wealthy would have carried, not soldiers; likewise the fencing school I follow was taught to nobles and specialists not soldiers - training for soldiers was very basic compared to duelling and based on numbers more than skill. But I’d counter that a party of adventurers aren’t soldiers, and - once they’ve got a few levels - are already far beyond “normal”, and would have the better/posher gear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Oct 6 at 14:25
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A shield cannot be dropped, it must be doffed.

As a result the creature will continue to hold the shield, and it will still be subject to the ongoing penalty:

If it doesn't drop the object, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the start of your next turn.

That being said, the creature could spend their next action doffing the shield, and effectively negate the effect of Heat Metal.

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No, Heat Metal can't force a creature to remove any item that takes an action or more to remove.

Complicated to equip and remove items like armor and shields can't be dropped as simply as a weapon, so the player is not forced to drop it. This is meant to simulate the immediate instinctive reaction to being burned, the split second flinching that makes you drop the item - it doesn't compel you to carefully undo and remove the straps holding it in place.

This is also why there is a second part to that failed con save:

If it doesn't drop the object, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the start of your next turn.

They failed the con save and can't just power through the pain, so it's still distracting them.

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